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Against Defeatism



This article by Rachel Cohen about the Maryland governor’s race is so true and so necessary:

And, wait, wasn’t Perez—a former Maryland state official and a longtime resident of the D.C. suburbs—considering a 2018 run against Maryland’s Republican governor Larry Hogan? Wouldn’t this rising political star’s career be better served by making a blue state blue again?

Last month, when I started asking people around D.C. this question, I got two somewhat contradictory responses. First, I’d invariably be asked if I had seen Larry Hogan’s approval ratings. Yes, I knew that the Republican governor currently boasted a 71 percent approval—his popularity was something The Washington Post reminded readers of again and again. But when I’d ask them what they thought Hogan’s biggest accomplishments were, their responses would quickly become vague. “Look … he can’t be beat,” they’d insist. “He’s moderate and just too well-liked.”

While I’d never claim that unseating an incumbent governor with high polling would be easy, Hogan’s alleged inevitability needs a reality check. Maryland is a state where Hillary Clinton swept the floor by 26 points. It’s a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two-to-one. Let’s be clear: Larry Hogan can be beat.

Hogan won the governorship in 2014 under uniquely favorable circumstances. His six-point victory was facilitated in part by Democrats taking the race for granted: They waged a pitifully weak campaign effort for an uninspiring and often invisible candidate. The result was a precipitous decrease in statewide voter turnout, particularly in counties that are critical for Democratic wins. Baltimore City turned out 36 percent of voters in 2014, 9 percent fewer than in 2010. Likewise, in Prince George’s County, turnout dropped by 7 percent, and in Montgomery County, by 12 percent.

Read the whole etc.

The idea that Dems should just preemptively give up on Perez winning in 2018 is absolutely insane. Sure, Hogan has high approval ratings now. But:

  • Perez is a major political talent.
  • There are two years to mobilize against Hogan.
  • As Cohen goes on to observe, 2018 will be the second year in office of an unprecedentedly unpopular president-elect who will be massively unpopular in 2018.

I don’t believe in heighten-the-contradictions in electoral politics because it involves trading certain losses for speculative and uncertain gains. Trump winning is extremely bad. But being the out-party even in ordinary circumstances presents opportunities at the state and local level, and these won’t be ordinary circumstances. Maryland is one potential opportunity, not just because Perez would be a major improvement over Hogan but because the Democrats need a better bench of presidential candidates. Sure, he might lose, but Bill Clinton and Barack Obama lost key early races too; it doesn’t taint hm forever.  And, besides, you can’t think that way. If you never ask anyone out for a date you won’t get rejected, but there are also downsides.

And you know who doesn’t think this way, for the most part? Republicans. Evan Bayh was a popular figure in Indiana who was undefeated in statewide races. Republicans didn’t give up — they mounted a scorched-earth campaign and beat him. That’s how to think. Hogan’s popularity is a problem to be solved, not an immutable fact of nature. If he’s a Republican, he’s part of the party of Trump and needs to be beaten. Get to work.



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